Within the framework of the UPLIFT project (Urban Policy Innovation to Address Inequality with and for Future Generations), for which 16 European cities or functional urban areas (FUAs) were selected, the Urban Report for Barakaldo has recently been carried out. This is part of a documentary synthesis, carried out by Orkestra researchers. It analyses the situation of inequality in the different groups of Barakaldo society, with a greater emphasis on Barakaldo’s youth – through the examination of four fundamental socioeconomic dimensions in the collective wellbeing of an area and in terms of the individual life process of any person: education, employment, housing, and social action (social protection, migration, and youth).
The starting point of the report is based on the premise that, within Europe, the competencies and governance positions present in the FUAs not only influence a better management of the extent of inequalities, but also lead to social mechanisms that slow down or determine pre-existing inequalities present, i.e., access to housing, a desired education, or desired employment, etc.
To identify potential causal relationships between the capacity for political maneuver (given the limitations of competence and governance) and the implementation of programs and actions of the territories and the situation of inequalities in these, the Orkestra researchers made use of a contextual FUA analysis methodology, supported by deep desk research, a collection of data, and a series of in-depth interviews with policymakers in the area covering the three levels of competencies and governance existing in the Basque Country: the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Bizkaia, and the Barakaldo City Council.
On the other hand, and simultaneously, the UPLIFT project is currently developing, a similar causal analysis for WP3, but this time it collects the experiences of implementers of territorial and local policies through a set of in-depth interviews carried out to them and to 40 young Barakaldeses: 20 interviews to people who were young during the economic crisis of 2007/2008, and 20 more interviews to young people who are currently living the crisis caused by the pandemic.
The direct contact with local youth is being methodologically accompanied by Orkestra, but it is thanks to the local partners and other gatekeepers/key actors from Barakaldo that the response is being more than satisfactory so far. This response is being achieved thanks to the formation of two soft spaces: the Youth Board (formed entirely by local young people) and the Social Lab (formed by specialists, policymakers, and implementers from Barakaldo).
In this regard, the Youth Board was created at the end of last year with the participation of more than a dozen young people who with their contributions today have demonstrated a commitment and active desire to be part of UPLIFT transforming the reality of their communities. In the case of the Social Lab, it has been formed recently thanks to a meeting in which an activity was carried out that we proceed to explain.
The interviewed policymakers and policy implementers have contributed to the Urban FUA by reflecting on three different social dimensions with the potential to influence the wellbeing and capacity of emancipation of the young person in Barakaldo.
The first one was the economic position (which is associated with GDP, level of productivity, labour market structure and economic institutions). In turn, two categories were defined: 1. strong and growing; 2. weak and declining.
The second dimension was political commitment and the tangible practice of using public resources to level the gap in life opportunities, also with two categories: 1. yes, there are efficient efforts implemented to reduce inequalities and 2. No, interventions have only marginal effects. On the other hand, it allows us to reflect on the processes of convergence or divergence based on the interaction processes of these three domains.
Undoubtedly, the different domains described above interact in complex ways. For instance, housing has an important effect on migration trends in different areas, but the relationship is not in one direction. High housing prices, both purchase and rental, could have a negative impact on family mobility, as low-income households could be forced to move to less prosperous areas or with fewer services within the same city, as they are driven out of economically stronger areas. At the same time, economically weak areas can trap low-income households in places with endemically few employment opportunities.
Moreover, failures in the education system and employment policy can amplify this process. Domain interaction can reinforce geographically selective mobility, where skilled people migrate to high-income places while less-skilled people stay in low-income places, more than they have historically done.
Turning back now to the analysis carried out in the case of the FUA of Barakaldo, we identify that the three domains in the case of this FUA are in a position that we could consider as positive in relation to the economic dimension, we identified that the three domains are in a “strong and growing” situation.
Regarding political commitment and practical steps to reduce, it was concluded that efficient public interventions are currently being carried out in all three domains.
Having framed the general situation of the three domains, the team of researchers proceeded to the concrete analysis of each of these.
In the case of housing, the results seem to suggest the search for a long-term strategic vision which considers ageing populations, as well as migratory flows. The report also emphasized the need to incorporate a differentiated perspective into housing policies for two clearly different groups: native people and people belonging to ethnicities and/or social groups of foreign origin.
In the case of young people, the results seem to indicate the need to encourage them in the search for paths that facilitate solutions conducive to uniting the personal evolution of the individual with the required conditions of a home. The results also suggest the need to adapt housing trends and family developments to the building codes and housing promotion in the area. For example, with the growing demand for housing, as these are inhabited by a single person, spaces should be built in a more efficient and sustainable way.
Finally, the results seem to invite greater monitoring of infringements in relation to housing construction, to seek strategies that facilitate non-discriminatory access to free rental flats for people of foreign origin and to provoke territorial reflection on why, compared to the rest of Europe, young Basques have low rates of their desire for personal emancipation.
Regarding employment, the results suggest a need to improve technical skills, so all groups of workers will have an equal chance to access the labour market.
Thus, strategies that promote labour traction include migrants to arrive with greater qualifications, providing the opportunity to gain skills, finding efficient solutions for migrants and young people, who are at risk of social or labour exclusion because they are not qualified to work in the area; facilitate a period of learning the Basque language for those migrants with the technical skills to work but with the immediate limitation of the language, among others.
Finally, in the case of education, the results of the exercise highlighted the need for a solid technical training offer in the required areas, as well as the urge to continue supporting the technical institutes with measures that favour their constant renewal and evolution. Similarly, it is recommended to look for models of education that not only focus on acquiring knowledge, but also encourage reflective thinking among students.
Along the same lines, the results seem to propose a greater adaptation of the socio-labour orientation for young people, since, in many cases, the choice of training which is unsatisfactory leads to early school leaving. The results also indicate the need to implement actions to support and accompany young immigrant women with communication and integration difficulties in the educational framework.
On the other hand, training in fields that go beyond the ordinary educational curriculum seem to be required. For example, results seem to suggest strengthening local educational programs in a wide range of areas. For example; environmental, socio-convivial, cultural dissemination, education in values, knowledge of the environment, heritage and history of the city, prevention of absenteeism/dropout and school support, education for citizenship; and in cross-cutting areas such as the prevention of drug dependence, gender equality policies, social inclusion, education for participation, reception and interculturality, the use of Basque, road safety education, the detection and prevention of situations of mild-moderate risk, psychosocial assistance, etc.
Regarding scholarships and study grants, the joint reflection exercise resulted in recommendations such as, strengthening municipal programs that promote learning Basque among young people, as well creating a wide educational offer, as without this support inequalities will continue to deepen generationally.